5-on-5: C's down the stretch

Each Thursday during the season we join forces with our friends and TrueHoop partner CelticsHub for a game of 5-on-5 tackling key issues surrounding the Celtics. In this week's edition -- the final of the regular season -- we talk playoff opponents, health issues, and what to expect from postseason Greg Stiemsma. A sample:

Should the Celtics prefer the Magic or the Hawks in the first round?

* Brian Robb: The Magic for obvious reasons. Beyond the injury and coaching drama they are going through, I don’t think Orlando would necessarily be an easy out, I’m just more worried about the Hawks talent. They have a core that has played together for five years now, defends well, and has shown they can be competitive in the postseason. With Boston looking for an easy out in the first round to preserve energy for later rounds, Orlando is the better candidate to fall quickly.

* Ryan DeGama: I think the Celtics will beat either team but given a choice, I’ll take the Hawks because Kevin Garnett can’t body up Dwight Howard (he’s game but he gives ground and it wears him out) and Greg Stiemsma might foul out against Howard in two minutes. Of course, this assumes that Howard will actually be 1) available for the playoffs and 2) more focused on playing than sabotaging Stan Van Gundy.

* Chris Forsberg: The Magic are a hot mess and are actually giving Dwight Howard the Jermaine O’Neal treatment (“If we get him back, obviously it would be a huge bonus, but we’re not expecting that at this point,” coach Stan Van Gundy said Wednesday). The Celtics match up incredibly well with Orlando regardless of whether D12 plays or not and — Tuesday’s effort in New York aside — Boston excels at limiting the 3-point shot. Alas, it sure looks like they’re going to get the Hawks, who have the inside track on home-court advantage. Regardless, the Celtics will not be overwhelmed by anyone in the East given their playoff experience and are a better team than Atlanta when healthy.

* Hayes Davenport: It may have not been this obvious when this question was written, but today it’s clearly the Magic. Either his back or his vague personality deficiencies is keeping Dwight Howard out of the playoffs. The team feels like it could conceivably just opt out of the first round. Plus Boston faced them last night without Rondo, gave up 27 points to Glen Davis and got outrebounded 43-29, and still won.

* Michael Pina: It’s difficult to take anything away from last night’s victory, but I still think Orlando would be the easier foe. Dwight Howard’s back is an obvious question mark, and even when he’s healthy the Celtics seem to have his number. Given the ridiculously difficult off-the-court drama they’ve had to put up with all season long, if there’s one team you’d expect to fizzle out in the first round of this year’s playoffs, it’d be the Magic.

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